Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A bit more on Rafe

So, I decided to go backwards and read There are no Shortcuts, the first book by Rafe Esquith, the fifth grade teacher who is parting seas and turning water into wine in downtown LA. Well, okay, he's turning 10-year-olds who speak English as a second language into Shakespearean actors on world-reknowned stages, and taking his math team to state competitions--which they win against private school competition. I'm deeply impressed by not only his level of commitment, but his skill. He's a master, and just by reading his books I am learning so much.

There is, as well, a disquieting egoism lurking in these pages--this book more so than his second. While I found this distasteful, I completely understand it. The teaching profession is so misunderstood and so maligned, that it's not surprising that one of its greatest practitioners must spend the bulk of his book explaining why he is so great. He has to tell us, because otherwise, we may not understand--or care--what it is exactly that he does that makes Room 56 at Hobart Elementary School a model for the rest of us. Far too many people would look at a fifth grade teacher and say, well, that couldn't be too hard. And a man, no less--so many would think, gee, if he's got any brains or talent, why isn't he using it to make some real money? So he has to explain it to us. His passion, his commitment to children's futures, his well-honed teaching skills. It made for an awkward read, but I get it and I'm glad I know some of what's happening in his classroom. It's inspiring, and I do intend to read his book that just came out this year, titled Lighting Their Fires.

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